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Just try it.

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If you have been taking dance from me even a few weeks, you already know this: I love digging in to the minutiae of movement. I could talk all night about precise foot placement, body line, muscular impetus, how it should look, how it might feel, where your energy is flowing, what the audience sees, your stage alignment, your gaze, your hands, your hands in relation to your torso…the list goes on and on.  And if you ask for more detail, sometimes I can’t help myself, and I explain it away…

But the truth is, sometimes you just have to try it. And fail. And try it again. And struggle. And curse. And try again.

I remember as a student desperately wanting to know the details. As already confessed, I love them and always have had an analytical approach to my dance.   In my studies, I found not all teachers are quite so intellectual in their approach, and thus aren’t awesome at giving a lot of detail; but even those who were fantastic teachers with loads of in-depth knowledge would sometimes answer my questions with a simple “Just try it.” At the time, I remember feeling a little brushed off. Like my question was slowing down the pace of the class, or maybe it was so brilliant even they didn’t have an answer for it.  *harumph*

So I tried it. And the fact is that many of my questions answered themselves through the process.  What could have been a 20-minute explanation or discussion (that maybe I wasn’t even ready to completely parse at the level I was working at the time) in an effort intellectualize what I was doing–learning from the outside-in– instead was 20 minutes of dancing and learning from the inside-out.  It was letting my body answer the question, it was letting my mind go a little bit and getting into my body a little more deeply, and introducing myself to the movement face-to-face.

Frankly, that is what dance is truly about–not just an exercise for the mind (which is surely is!!), but ultimately a connection to the body, being present in our bodies in a way we aren’t in other facets of life. That is what makes dance extraordinary, isn’t it?

My mentors Paulette and Carolena both demonstrate an economy of explanation which I aspire to some day.  Over the decades they have learned just the right combination of words to help students understand what the goal is. They choose words carefully and pace their delivery to help students “get it”. But then, the talking is over and it’s time to dance, and you learn by doing (or at least trying!).

And look at me! I am a product of that teaching, and my knowledge is deep and richly nuanced. I struggled. I hemmed and hawed. I looked at floors and ceilings of many a dance space thinking the answers would somehow be revealed there. I sat and took notes, I researched in my free time, but in class and in workshops…we danced.

So I will still love talking about the move, and if you ask me a question, I will do my best to answer it thoroughly but concisely (I’m still working on that! LOL). But if I finally say “just try it”, know that I am not blowing you off, or that I don’t have an answer to give (oh boy, DO I!).  But the fact is, sometimes the only answers are in the doing.  Just try it. You’ll see.

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Shay Moore is the director and primary instructor at Deep Roots Dance in Seattle, WA. She loves writing, movies, costuming, knitting, cooking, and bellydance to the moon and back again; and loves her amazing husband and doggies even more than that.

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